Managing a blog page for a group or organization can be fun and rewarding – a phrase that should immediately toggle the cautionary button.
It’s that time of year for our annual writer’s group conference in mid-March. Since I blog somewhat regularly on WordPress, I was asked to revamp an outdated WordPress page to post presenter profiles, interviews, and conference news. Essentially, I’d be the ‘ghost in the shell’ to solicit, edit, format, and post articles by other group members.
Hey, I use WordPress all the time. How much trouble could it be?
Looking back, I ignored the ‘check details before proceeding’ indicator, and thought I’d share a few things I learned.
Get a Clear Mission Statement Before Proceeding
The group gave me carte blanc to redesign the page, which included an upgrade to a premium page for a small annual fee with access to better template options, widget buttons, and customary links. Nobody had to learn HTML tech-speak or pay a monthly “mortgage fee” to fancy-pants web designers.
That part was easy.
Once the docket was approved, we created a process for members to sign up for one or more of the over twenty articles slated to print over a time frame of four – five months. First solicitation was met with a silence akin to a high school gymnasium at 2:00 AM. It took a bit of prodding by group officers to get things rolling, but eventually folks stepped up.
Create a New User Account for the Blog
I blew this one big time. As a WordPress Premium Plan user myself, I hoped to minimize the setup time by creating a new page while logged in with my own account, then adding others for administrators. Updating a page whose original owner hadn’t participated for years with the group, isn’t the best way to go.
I didn’t have problems with approved members accessing the blog and creating a post, but like Facebook, the WordPress folks like having an “owner” available for everything. Since I revamped the page while signed in on my personal account, only way I can unlock myself is if I delete the account. The annual bill hits my account every year like the return of robins in spring. Every year I have to rebill the group. I’m still working on a third-party Paypal invoice option.
Twenty-twenty hindsight; start fresh.
- First, sign out from any personal WordPress and Email accounts that are open.
- Create a new group email and sign-in credentials if one is not available. I found Gmail to work best. May sound like a Homer Simpson “duh”, but make sure officers know how to access it.
- Then go to WordPress and create new account, using group email.
- Have fun building the chosen template to fit your needs.
- Be sure to include group’s mission statement in the blog page “About” profile.
- Have more than one administrator assist with the management of it. I suggest offering a cocktail or two before making your pitch.
Select Template to Suit the Group’s Brand
I love WordPress because they take the pain out of designing a page. They have lots of them for writers and authors, and the web is chock full of outside designers who create WordPress compatible temples. You want it to be easy to read, not splattered with visual frilly things that distract from the text. Save that for a personal blog that celebrates all things unicorn.
I stuck with the same template I use for my personal page because I’m lazy, and the Chateau Theme has a good balance of widget placement, logos and link options.
I’ll not go into details of initial page set up. WordPress is fairly easy to navigate, and numerous Youtube videos exist from people who don’t get out much.
I’ve always believed a picture tells a story, even if it’s a simple message. Not everyone agrees, but to me, a blog page without pics becomes just another bunch of words in an overcrowded blogosphere universe. And since the graphic is the first visual a reader sees, make it a good one.
I went all out on my personal page at dtkrippene.com. Took me weeks to find that perfect graphic to represent my brand, “Searching For Light in the Darkness.” For a writer’s group, we agreed something less snazzy to be appropriate, and … ta da – here it is.
Ready, Set, Blog – Wait …
To fill in that vast empty draft space, articles authored by other group members should be submitted with the following criteria.
Article typed in Times-New-Roman, 12 Font, preferably on Word for Window’s, or compatible program like Open Docs. The days of handing a secretary handwritten notes for letter dictation ended decades ago, and I don’t have time to retype an entire draft. Cutting and pasting on that blank template above saves a pile of time. Avoid fancy fonts; work this on the WordPress draft if you want them.
To this day, I still get articles inside the body of an email or formatted in a weird font that I must reformat. As a result, I transfer all summitted articles to a separate Word document by copying text, using “Paste Special – Unformatted Text” to remove hidden formatting problems that don’t translate well on WordPress, followed by changing the pasted text to NTR 12. Even then, I frequently have to use WordPress’ “Clear Formatting” Button (little eraser symbol) on pasted text.
A useable headshot for profile or interview, not a thumbprint taken from google images, or blurry selfie shot. There won’t be enough pixels. Do not include the photo inside the Word document; which requires screen-printing to clipboard, then opening a photo program to access pic for saving as a jpeg, only to get a photo the size of a postage stamp. Most professional agents and authors will provide a media kit upon request. The upside with WordPress, if the photo is too large, it’s easily reduced in the body of the draft.
Editing isn’t supposed to be in the job description, but it ends up as one. Minor faux pas for punctuation and a missing word happens to everyone, but I’ve had to practically retype some submissions. There’s a lot more to it than typesetting. When I write an article for someone else, I treat it as if I’m submitting to an agent. I mean – we’re supposed to be writers.
Include social media and website links if doing a presenter profile or interview. The most time-consuming chore with posting someone else’s work (aside from chasing down useable photos), is searching the net for said links. Why is this important? It’s a common courtesy in a profile piece, and the more links we have inside the article, the greater the SEO search linkages the article will have, which leads to greater exposure. The pros know this.
Get article author’s bio and headshot. The point of volunteering to submit an article is exposure for the author. “Written by Such-n-such” is about as invisible as the dialogue tag – “said”. If article author hasn’t created a bio, this is the time to draft one. Call me old-fashioned for thinking readers want to see a human face, I tend to reject avatars. It might be acceptable with Twitter and Instagram, but if an article author wishes to remain anonymous, so be it. Unicorns and cute pugs are not writers.
Article should include author’s social media links as well. I remember asking one article author if they had any social media links included in their bio, who answered with “I don’t use social media.” I almost followed up with “how does anyone know you exist as an author”, but sighed – que sera sera, and quit asking.
Pay attention to tags and keywords. For the conference, every article should be tagged with: Writing, Writing Conferences, Writing Craft. If the article is a profile or interview, add tags to identify the skill set, like ‘Author Voice’, Query Letters’, or ‘Staging Fight Scenes’. If an author of YA fantasy, tags should include ‘YA’ and ‘Fantasy’. If the profile is about a publisher or book coach, include the publisher’s agency name, ‘Marketing’, ‘Self-Publishing’, ‘Indie-Publishing’, etc.
All this helps to fine tune SEO search engines, so browsers looking for book writing tips don’t end up with suggestions on how much to tip.
Share the article on other Social Media accounts. If the group doesn’t have a Facebook Page, get one (sorry, didn’t mean to shout). To paraphrase the words of a NYT bestselling author who spoke at a past conference, blogs exist in a ‘tsunami of content’. To break out of the isolated bubble of a few group members and family friends who might read it, group postings need a social media sprinkler to let others aware the group exists. We’ve found contacting and liking other writer groups and interested parties pays big dividends. Fellow group members who participate in social media should also help broadcast the news. Ask any RWA Chapter Group; many of them have the best communicative share net on the planet.
When posting the article link, Facebook automatically pops the first paragraph and the picture embedded in the article. It may appear to save time, but what often happens is the photograph displayed may not be the article header pic (if article contains more than one photo). Even if it is, the photograph won’t paste to Facebook Photobook. Took me a few iterations to discover the best course of action is to type in the article title, followed by pasting the article link, then physically attaching the article picture from file. Sounds convoluted, but the article graphic becomes a permanent record on the Facebook page, and it won’t be a cat selfie.
And if You’re Still a Gluten for Punishment …
Our group page goes into hibernation after conference activity ends, until the next cycle begins six months later. I’ve been taught that leaving an active website unattended for long periods of time, can undo all the connections gathered. Personally, I don’t blog often, but I try to be regular. As if I wasn’t having enough fun with the group site, I suggested the platform was available to membership during the off months to:
- Announce a new book, short story, or article that appeared in a magazine
- Offer a poem, or short story for others to read.
- Allow other writerly folk who have something to share with the group
- Invite blog sharing from other sites. We’ll post your article, you post ours.
- Share your writer’s journey.
- Share a valuable lesson learned that may help others
- Share successes. Share disappointments. We’re all in this together.
The list is endless.
The submissions for off-season, unfortunately – haven’t been.
A Side Note on Other Blogging Platforms
I’m a diehard WordPress user, because I’m too lazy to relearn another platform. But if you’re interested in what’s available, check out The 10 Best Free Blogging Platforms in 2018! (Pros & Cons). What you’ll find is – free gets you in the game, but it’s going to cost a bit more for any kind of customization.
I still run across writers and authors who feel the need to have someone design a custom blog website to be unique. If you want a primer for how much this stuff costs, read How Much Does a Website Design or Redesign Cost? [2019 Guide] for a hefty dose of sticker shock.
I’ve lost count of those who claim to have a brother, cousin, uncle-of-a-neighbor who has some chops in programing. I’m all for unique, but if it’s a group site, the major issue is what happens if the programmer/administrator gets hit by the proverbial bus? Time and time again I’ve seen website administrators disappear, leaving the hapless writer stuck with an HTML intensive site without an instruction manual.
I’m sure I missed a few things, but I think I’ve confused you enough. If you remember anything, stick with simple. You’ll be glad you did.
This ghost-in-the-shell thing is hard enough as it is.
May You Blog Well and Prosper
By the way, we still have openings for the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™, March 21 – 23, 2019. Check out the amazing line up of speakers and get an opportunity to pitch your book to agents and editors.
You can learn all about the presenters on the GLVWG WordPress Blog.
A lot of work went into those articles. Throw us bone will ya, and give us a like.